He won the Orange County point to point twice, and he barely knew how to ride.
He spoke with a slow drawl as if he really was a cowboy. But he was just a city boy from Washington DC. The West called to him though. He spent years living in New Mexico and Colorado. Everything about the west appealed to him. He loved the openness of the land and the people. The Indians (Do I have to say Native Americans?) fascinated him and drew his interest and admiration. He enjoyed horses and loved western gear for riding. He collected stirrups and spurs and mugs made for a man with a mustache. The sculptures of Charlie Russell thrilled him. Western paintings began to pile up as he made more purchases. The art transformed him as it became an obsession that never left him until his memory did.
He was not tall, just as his father was not tall. He had a brilliant, full head of hair that never grayed. He had a slight build but he was trim and fit. He was handsome. He was charming. He was hilarious!
Ladies loved him, and he was happy to oblige them.
He used to run with his cousin Doug Inglish. The two of them were “Hell on wheels” in and around Washington DC. The ‘bar scene’ was their stage and they were the stars of their own show. They were cheerful liars when it came to reeling in a female for the kill (or rather the date). They were not politically correct or any other way correct. It was every man for himself and women were fair prey if they fell for the smooth lines and imaginative lies or this pair of rogues.
But it was all in fun. They loved life and living on the edge of being civilized young men about town. They knew how to act, but they loved pushing the envelope. Back in the 60s when much of this went on things were more orderly than they are now. The rules were firm. But by today’s standards, they were much more relaxed about boys being boys.
It is so weird to realize he is gone. But on the other hand, he has been gone for years as far as I was concerned. I lost him to the illness. Thank God for Janis’s great care of him.
Now … finally… I am beginning to remember how much fun he was! How he made us laugh, how generous with gifts and with his time. We were so close in those days! He was my best friend for years!
Now through stories, people are telling me and old photos I am finding, all those memories are flooding back to me. He was hysterically funny! He was also completely carefree much of that time!
I had almost forgotten how much I missed him when he got so ill. Now I am acutely aware of it and feel deeper grief than I thought I would. But I am grieving for the old Wiley who loved my children and bolstered me in so many ways. I will miss him.
Looking at photos from 1962 I see my brother in his role as Uncle. He was Bucky to all of us in those days. He had not yet claimed his birth name as his own. He was just 15 when we presented him with his first nephew. He was so proud! It gave him a sense of continuity and family growth that ingrained in him a deep love of his nieces and nephews as they proliferated, seemingly annually.
He was obsessively neat. His bed was made with precision. He had his clothes organized and neatly folded on the shelves. And all of his stacked change was refreshed every evening. Quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies in their own distinct piles. We used to tease him and say, “Let’s go over to Wiley’s house and mess up his change!”
He was such a confirmed bachelor. We thought he would never marry because he was so “gun-shy” about making a mistake. So many young women came into and went out of his life, each one was more beautiful than the next. But none of them “stuck”. They would befriend our mother and then cry on her shoulder when their hearts were broken. I wonder what happened to some of them.
Then came Janis. She changed everything. And he made a ritual of asking her to marry him. It is a great story. You should ask Janis to tell you. He was completely committed. Their marriage was a marvelous union of two people equally careful and wanting to make a successful marriage. Wiley was 55. “No one can say I rushed into marriage.” He famously said.
When they married he naturally began to change his priorities and his focus. And we were so happy for him we just let him be more and more separate as they lived their lives together. They were having so much fun. They traveled and entertained beautifully. Wiley continued his outside friendships and even his famous costume parties. He and Janis loved Mother. Their help with keeping our mother in their lives and part of the fun was priceless. And then he became ill. It was gradual at first but VERY noticeable to me. And that was sort of the end of our close sibling relationship. He left. He became someone else, a person with whom I could no longer have a meaningful conversation. Not the Wiley he once was. It was heartbreaking. It is true that relationships require nourishment and attention. My life careened in another direction as my marriage of 43 years ended. Priorities changed for me as well. And over the years I began to forget how much I loved him and he loved me.
Because of cleaning out my mother’s house and going through albums there, I have a fresh set of old photos to look at. These refresh my memory in so many ways. The stories I could tell!!! (But I won’t do it here.) He was an extraordinarily kind person. Gentle most of the time but firm when necessary, he was a true gentleman. He was a great shot, a social golfer, and horrible dancer, a generous gift-giver, a funny prankster, and a great collector of Western sculpture and paintings. Now I remember. I am so grateful to have had him for so long as the super brother and super uncle that he was. What fun we had!!!
Copyright©. 2021 Bonnie B. Matheson